14 February 2018

Namibia: An Aspiring Radio Astronomer

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Pinehas Nakaziko — Young and ambitious, Senior Shimhanda describes himself as a merchant of engineering with a love for radio astronomy.

A final year Master of Environmental Engineering student at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), Shimhanda, who works as a researcher at the Namibia Energy Institute (NEI), says he has professional hands-on experience in developing nanosatellites (CubeSats). "I can turn your ordinary satellite dish into a radio telescope. I love strategies, hence I am very pragmatic."

Born and bred in Onamulele near Omuthiya in the Oshikoto region, Shimhanda says he always had a village boy childhood, but his parents raised him in a special way. His basic challenge was when his parents demanded absolute excellence, so he became addicted to supplying it. Regarding obstacles, Shimhanda says when oysters have ugly pebbles inside them, it is because beautiful pearls are long overdue.

Growing up he was lucky to have an infinite learning curve. He had exemplary mentors who wanted him to become a beacon of excellence, and engineering always matched his greatest attributes, that is why he went for it. Last year Shimhanda was selected to attend the Big Data in Astronomy Conference in Mauritius, an opportunity which, he says, enables him as a Namibian with the most sought-after, almost clandestine technical know-how to solve social problems.

With that opportunity, Shimhanda became knowledgeable about Advanced Linux and Python, Big Data and Machine Learning, Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), Social Media Data Analysis, Business Analytics using Big Data for Development, Exploring Hospital Quality, Advancing the Development of Astronomy and Communicating Research.

"If my efforts can boost the Namibian space sector, then I must persistently commit to that cause till I achieve remarkable results because the benefits will be national, scientific, technical and technological." As a researcher, Shimhanda says when he is in the field he works as an electronics engineer, or as an electrical technician, depending on the task at hand. "My career decisions are passion-driven but circumstances have definitely played a role too," he says.

Moving to the corporate world, Shimhanda started off as a research assistant in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at NUST.

"I am now with the NEI because my thesis mirrors their ultimate objective. I always expected high standards and so far results match expectations."

Looking back on his life's journey thus far, his defining moment was prior to graduation. "I did my internship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The opportunity was a springboard as it metaphorically launched a human rocket into the orbit of greatness."

His desirable goal is now to complete his masters degree so that he can be able to take up the Newton Fund's Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) Steering Committee postgraduate offer to pursue a Masters in Radio Astronomy in the United Kingdom.

"Upon graduation, I will become the first Namibian radio astronomer."

"The most flourishing persons have this impressive confidence and optimism that gives them the freedom to be idealistic and ultimately actualize their visions," is his message to the youth.

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